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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2018 Sep 27. doi: 10.1037/pspp0000213. [Epub ahead of print]

Generosity pays: Selfish people have fewer children and earn less money.

Author information

1
Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution.
2
Institute for Futures Studies.
3
Department of Sociology, University of South Carolina.

Abstract

Does selfishness pay in the long term? Previous research has indicated that being prosocial (or otherish) rather than selfish has positive consequences for psychological well-being, physical health, and relationships. Here we instead examine the consequences for individuals' incomes and number of children, as these are the currencies that matter most in theories that emphasize the power of self-interest, namely economics and evolutionary thinking. Drawing on both cross-sectional (Studies 1 and 2) and panel data (Studies 3 and 4), we find that prosocial individuals tend to have more children and higher income than selfish individuals. An additional survey (Study 5) of lay beliefs about how self-interest impacts income and fertility suggests one reason selfish people may persist in their behavior even though it leads to poorer outcomes: people generally expect selfish individuals to have higher incomes. Our findings have implications for lay decisions about the allocation of scarce resources, as well as for economic and evolutionary theories of human behavior. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved).

PMID:
30265021
DOI:
10.1037/pspp0000213

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